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3D printing as an aid to education in British schools has been given a considerable Government boost.
The Department for Education has unveiled its plans for a 3D printing scheme that aims to enhance science, technology, engineering, maths (STEM) and design learning in the classroom.
Education Secretary Michael Gove is extending the programme as part of the Government's drive to increase the number of maths and sciences students in the UK. 3D printing in schools is still a fledgling concept and last year the Department financed an initiative allowing 21 secondary schools to trial the use of desktop 3D printers in STEM and design classes.
Gove said: "3D printers are revolutionising manufacturing and it is vital that we start teaching the theory and practice in our schools. Teaching schools will be able to develop and spread effective methods to do this. Combined with our introduction of a computer science curriculum and teacher training, this will help our schools give pupils valuable skills."
The success of this guinea-pig run is being expanded upon, with the Coalition bringing the technology into more schools, setting up a £500,000 fund to enable as many as 60 schools to buy 3D printers and train teachers how to use them and apply them to their lesson plans.
A report into the pilot said that so far, 3D printing technology has been restricted to design and technology classes for the most part in British schools, but there is "considerable potential for them to be used within a range of STEM subjects".
The report said that links to mathematics, design, physics, biology and engineering were all apparent after the trial run in 21 schools.
Another point made in the report was the importance of correct training for teachers, as many early lessons in this subject were restricted to printing small, simple files, hence the need for more money to be set aside for continuing professional development.
Head of Technology at Simon Langton Girls' Grammar School in Canterbury, Kent, James Brady commented: "With the printer carrying out the 'production' of objects, more time can be spent considering the science and mathematics involved in design. One pupil stated that the 3D printer had heightened her interest in mathematics and improved her desire to learn. Subsequently she commented that it improved her level of achievement."
David Jeremy, Head of Design and Technology at Settlebeck High School in Sedbergh, Cumbria, added: "All the pupils who have been involved with the 3D printer so far have been inspired by its possibilities. The opportunity to realise a concept or idea quickly into a 3D product is an incredibly powerful teaching tool."
This is the latest stage in the Government's programme to improve standards in high-tech subjects. The new curriculum for computing will ensure primary school pupils learn how to write computer programs while computer sciences will be included in the EBacc from next year. Moreover, the new Sir James Dyson-backed design and technology curriculum will see pupils taught advanced skills such as robotics, further preparing them for a career in engineering.